Asia This Week: April 23, 2021

April 23, 2021

Your weekly roundup of news and analysis of elections in Asia and the Pacific, usually posted on Fridays and occasionally updated throughout the week. For a full electoral calendar and interactive map, click here.

Prayer wheels at the Memorial Chorten in Thimphu, Bhutan. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Stephen Shephard (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Ongoing Asia/Pacific Elections

India: Five State Elections: March 27-May 2, 2021

Elections in four Indian states (West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala) and one union territory (Puducherry) begin on March 27 and will conclude on May 2. These elections, involving 180 million voters, will be a key test for the national parties, but regional parties also play a big role. Meanwhile, farmers protests continue in and around New Delhi. In addition, a number of local elections are going on. More

Shilpa Jamkhandika and Neha Arora, Reuters (April 26, 2021): India sends army to help hospitals hit by COVID-19 as countries promise aid

Asif Muztaba Hassan, The Diplomat (April 26, 2021): West Bengal Elections: What’s in It for Bangladesh? A BJP win in West Bengal in the ongoing state elections could complicate Bangladesh-India relations even further.

Syed Badrul Ahsan, Observer Research Foundation (April 22, 2021): West Bengal elections: The view from Dhaka

Upcoming Asia/Pacific Elections

Bhutan, Third Thromde Election: April 28, 2021

Bhutan plans to hold local elections in the capital, Thimphu, as well as the towns of Gelegphu and Phuentsholing, on April 28, 2021.

MB Subba, Kuensel Online (April 21, 2021): Thromde election to be held on the set date despite lockdown in P’ling

Aarti Betigeri, Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter ((April 26, 2021): Bhutan: Happy days for the jab
in between a strategic pinch

Mongolia Presidential Election: June 9, 2021

Mongolia, a free though imperfect democracy, has scheduled its presidential election for June 9, 2021, following parliamentary elections in June 2020 and local elections in October 2020. More

Marissa Smith, Bulgan Batdorj, and Julian Dierkes, The Diplomat (April 20, 2021): Grappling With Parliament Limiting His Powers, Mongolian President Moves to Dissolve Ruling Party

Japan General Elections: On or Before October 22, 2021

Japan is due to hold general elections by October 22, 2021, but they could happen earlier. In addition, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who replaced Shinzo Abe last year, faces a leadership contest in his conservative Liberal Democratic Party ahead of the general elections.

Sayo Sasaki, Kyodo News (April 26, 2021): LDP loses 3 Japan parliamentary elections in blow to Suga

Andrew Salmon, Asia Times (April 26, 2021): By-election loss signals Suga’s departure in Japan

Mitch Shin, The Diplomat (April 20, 2021): As Approval Rating Declines, Moon Reshuffles Cabinet Ministers

Hong Kong Legislative Elections: December 2021 (planned)

Hong Kong plans to hold elections to the Legislative Council in December 2021, after more than a year’s delay. These elections are taking place in the context of Beijing’s determination to gut Hong Kong’s democracy. More

Elizabeth Chen, Jamestown Foundation (April 23, 2021): Hong Kong Cracks Down on National Security Imperatives Amid Electoral Reforms

Hong Kong Free Press (April 23, 2021): Election revamp: Urging people not to vote or spoil ballots may be criminalised, even without proof of intent to sabotage poll

Sophie Hui, The Standard Hong Kong (April 22, 2021): Fury over plan to halt elections

Chris Lau, South China Morning Post (April 21, 2021): New Hong Kong elections rule allows postponement of contests in specific Legislative Council constituencies

Sharline Liu, The Nation (April 20, 2021): After ‘the Death of Hong Kong’s Democracy,’ an Ex-Legislator Fights Beijing From Exile

South Korea Presidential Election: March 9, 2022

South Korea holds its presidential election on March 9, 2021. Recently, the conservative opposition won special mayoral elections in Seoul and Busan by a landslide, just a year after President Moon Jae-in’s center-left Democratic Party swept the legislature. Moreover, Moon’s approval rating is tanking.

Hyung-A Kim, Al Jazeera (April 23, 2021): A youth revolt is under way in South Korea

S. Nathan Park, Foreign Policy (April 21, 2021): Are South Korea’s Conservatives Back In the Game?

Philippines Presidential Election: May 9, 2022

In 2016, populist firebrand Rodrigo Duterte won the presidency, claiming to be an outsider. He has governed with an iron fist. Although he is banned from seeking a second term, critics fear that he will seek to consolidate illiberalism in the form of a handpicked successor. Meanwhile, a broad coalition of opposition figures have formed 1Sambayan (One Nation) in the hopes of defeating Duterte’s allies with a united front.

East Asia Forum (April 26, 2021): Is there a Duterte dynasty in the making?

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News (April 22, 2021): Pulse Asia: Sara Duterte leads anew preferred 2022 presidential candidates

Cambodia Local Elections: June 5, 2022 and Parliamentary Elections: July 2023 (due)

Cambodia is due to hold local elections in 2022 and general elections in 2023. Although Cambodia has held elections in the past that had some element of competition, the 2018 election – neither free nor fair – signified the closing of Cambodia’s political space. They have been called “the death of democracy.” The main pro-democracy opposition, Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), was dissolved and banned from fielding candidates, and its leader, Sam Rainsy, was sent into exile, so its supporters boycotted the polls, resulting in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) taking 58 out of 62 seats in parliament, and allowing Prime Minister Hun Sen to consolidate even more power while extending his three decades in power.

Aun Chhengpor, VOA Khmer (April 23, 2021): CNRP’s Pardoned Politicians Weigh Options As Elections Approach

Ben Sokhean, Khmer Times (April 23, 2021): Commune polls quandry: NEC and Gov’t committed to election date despite parties’ concerns

Papua New Guinea General Elections: June/July 2022 (due)

Papua New Guinea is due to hold general elections in June/July 2021.

Rebecca Kuku, The Guardian (April 21, 2021): Chaos in PNG politics as prime minister adjourns parliament, avoiding no confidence vote

Nepal Parliamentary Elections: 2023 (due – snap elections possible)

In December, Nepal’s prime minister decided to dissolve parliament and call for new elections. However, on February 23, the Supreme Court overturned the decision, cancelling the snap elections. Nonetheless, Nepal’s political crisis continues. More

Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times (April 21, 2021): PM Oli needs to spell out election plan; political instability has repercussions

Yubaraj Ghimire, Indian Express (April 21, 2021): Nepal’s Oli uses Hindutva as key agenda for the next election

Past Asia/Pacific Elections

Tibet Government-in-Exile Runoff: April 11, 2021

Tibetans in exile around the world cast their ballots for Sikyong, the president of the Central Tibetan Administration (the formal name of the government-in-exile), which is headquartered in Dharamshala, India. The first round, with eight candidates, was in January, alongside legislative elections. In the second round, former speaker of the Tibetan government-in-exile Penpa Tsering defeated Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang, the Dalai Lama’s representative to North America.

Tibet itself is currently ruled by China and is among the least free countries in the world. However, Tibetans have been developing a democratic system in exile.

Howard W. French, Foreign Affairs (May/June 2021 issue): A Prison Called Tibet

Kalden Ladoe and Paul Eckert, Radio Free Asia (April 23, 2021): US Urges China to Reveal Whereabouts of Tibet’s ‘Disappeared’ Panchen Lama

Soumya Shankar, Slate (April 20, 2021): What Happens After the Dalai Lama?

Pema Ngodup, Tenzin Dickyi, and Richard Finney, Radio Free Asia (April 19, 2021): Projected Winner in Vote for Tibet’s Exile Leader Vows Hard Work, Asks for Unity

Maldives Local Elections: April 10, 2021

Maldives held local elections for April 10, 2021, following a delay due to COVID-19. Voters will elect island, atoll, and city councils to three-year terms. The country was under a brutal dictatorship for decades, but began a remarkable transition to democracy in 2008. The road to democracy has been somewhat rocky, but Maldivian democrats persevere. More

Aishath Hanaan Hussain Rasheed, Raajje (April 25, 2021): Council Elections 2021: MDP win 400 races, but lose super-majority to PPM’s 325 seats

Giriraj Bhattacharjee, Eurasia Review (April 20, 2021): Maldives: Peace In Jeopardy – Analysis

Samoa Parliamentary Elections: April 9, 2021

Samoa held general elections on April 9, 2021, and the post-election situation has been rather eventful. A new opposition party, Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST, “Faith in the one true God”), posed a new challenge to the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), which has been in power since 1982. Ultimately, both FAST and HRPP got equal numbers of seats, with an independent MP breaking the tie and agreeing to support FAST. However, the plot continues to thicken as HRPP was given an additional female MP since the party did not meet its quota for women. It is unclear what the next steps will be. These elections took place in the context of controversy over proposed changes to the county’s constitutional framework and judiciary, involving questions of Samoan identity. More

Asia Pacific Review (April 22, 2021): Samoa could go back to the polls with a hung parliament

Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson, The Guardian (April 21, 2021): Samoa election 2021: still no clear winner despite creation of new seat

Tahlea Aualiitia, Nick Fogarty and Prianka Srinivasan, ABC News Australia (April 21, 2021): Samoa’s gender quota laws may have spurned chances of nation swearing in its first female PM

AFP (April 20, 2021): The female trail-blazer shaking up Samoan politics

Burma General Elections: November 8, 2020

Burma, also called Myanmar, held general elections on November 8, 2020. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide. However, on February 1, the military staged a coup, claiming election fraud (despite a lack of evidence). Protests against the coup continue. The military claims it will hold new elections will take place within two years. More

Annabelle Quince and Nick Wiggins, ABC Australia (April 22, 2021): How Myanmar’s military became a ‘state within a state’ that overthrew a government

The Irrawaddy (April 22, 2021): Myanmar Junta Member’s House Bombed in Yangon

Richard Borsuk, The Diplomat (April 20, 2021): With Recent Coup, Myanmar’s Military Diverges From the Indonesian Path

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